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PhD Study Guide

How long does a PhD take?

In the UK most PhD programmes last for three years. Students are expected to submit a thesis within 12 months of the end of the programme (and preferably within the three year period). There are an increasing number of programmes, such as the New Route PhD scheme or the Wellcome Trust 4 year PhD scheme, which incorporate a number of taught modules into the programme which increases the length to 4 years.

How much will it cost me?

This depends on where you are from, where you want to study and whether or not you qualify for funding. If you are a UK student, with appropriate qualifications (see below) then you should be able to apply for one of the many funded projects on this site. Funding in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is often more complicated than in the sciences and engineering - see our article on PhD Study in the Arts & Humanities for more information. If you are an international student wishing to study in the UK or a UK student wishing to study abroad then visit our Funding and UK Study sections now to see whether you are eligible for any scholarships.

Can I study part-time?

Yes. Many students choose to study part time, particularly when they are self-funded. It is likely that the majority of funded PhD positions will require a full time commitment.

How do I choose a research project?

Primarily you should look for a project which interests you. It is generally considered better to study for a PhD in a different university from the one where you did your first degree, as it will expose you to a different set of academic influences. However it is not uncommon for people to stay in the same place, either because of family commitments or because of the quality of projects on offer.

What happens at a PhD interview?

It's not really for us to say what you might be asked. PhD interviews vary tremendously depending on the supervisor concerned. It is likely however that you will be asked about your third year project or any other research experience you may have.If you have been given details of any particular references then make sure you do your best to read them. If you've not been given this info, then use the web to find relevant papers (particularly those by your potential supervisor). You are not likely to be examined on these things, but the supervisor will be looking to see that you were at least interested enough to read them.

The other question you are likely to be asked is why you want to do a PhD in general, and this PhD in particular. You should think about the answers to these questions before you go to the interview. Many people apply for a PhDs because they can't think of anything else to do. A good supervisor will try to avoid these people.Finally, remember to find out as much as you can while you're there. Try to speak to PhD students working in your potential new lab/Department and see if you like the atmosphere. Don't be afraid to ask the PhD students about the quality of supervision. Three years is a long time to be stuck with a bad supervisor or to work in an unfriendly environment.

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